If you are a corporate communicator and have been concerned about how visual communications fits within your standard operating procedures or have stayed away from it because you’re not a savvy designer, I have good news for you.
I’ve found it is a myth that non-designers need to stay out of the way and let the “real” designers do all of the heavy lifting during content development. Everyone should have a seat at the table, and while someone may be able to tell a more eloquent story, that doesn’t make input from ‘non-designers’ any less authentic. When it comes to internal communication, I have found that the message produced by someone in the trenches is often some of the most effective messaging we show and as a designer I believe that it’s my mandate to help people communicate, not shut them out.
Have you ever seen a child speak truth to power? Sometimes the voice of the novice is just like that of a child, as a designer I know all of the reasons not to do something a specific way, but a novice doesn’t know about these unwritten rules or codes designers keep and break rules we are afraid to.
The reality is that the Corporate Communication Challenge is at its core, a struggle around context and strategy more so than around content design and execution! It is when we have a full grasp of context as well as the expectations of the recipients, that stellar and engaging content can be developed and produced. Any work done beforehand is really done in vain.
So it’s not so much that “Content is King,” but that engaging content is king when we use the power of context. Inside of the digital signage space the context we read around our screens include but is not limited to: environment, dwell times, screen orientation, and media types being sent to the display.
The funny thing about corporate communications, especially communications that are delivered in a visual format is, if you do not fully understand the context in which your content will be delivered, the effort to communicate will be fruitless. There is a balance that I am continuing to strive to hit within the walls of the Blinds.comPlex, (which is what we call our corporate offices). We now have 140 screens and two video walls, which means that each digital experience has its own set of circumstances. What’s more, the associates and contractors who reside in the shadow of these screens all have different needs too!
Within these deployments I also track what screens are being used for what content, so that we can rotate these displays and keep the use of the screens as fresh as possible. I pay close attention to how team members are interacting with the screens using qualitative surveys delivered in the form of a quick question, using the opportunity when someone is between tasks or during a phone call.
For the better part of a year I have been opening the door and empowering others within our offices to produce content that is shown on our network. This push for distributed authorship was not one just for scaling my duties, but it ties back to one of our core values, “Speak Up and Be Yourself.”
When someone has something that they need to say, I point them to (nearly) free tools like Canva, Adobe Spark, or send them something as simple as a power point template that I have pre-sized to 20 inches by 11.25 inches so that when you export the image you get a full HD sized image that will not need to be scaled.
My first instinct when I opened up this freedom was to be very hands on (or to try and hold their hand) while they crafted their message, but surprisingly, found that was not necessary. Now, I only give a few tips at the start and then set them loose to create.
First, use as few words as possible. Brevity is beautiful. The slide will only be up for 15 seconds or so, if you are trying to force feed someone details, well it just cannot be received and will get ignored or even worse will frustrate the view because you gave them too much to take in and too little time.
Second, I ask that they make use of the visual medium and try to use an image or icon to speak for them. The 1,000 words you didn’t have to say because of an image can quickly ingrained in the viewer so use the medium to your advantage as best you can.
For those who ask for additional resources, we open up a dialog that is rooted in helping them figure out what they want to accomplish and how can we best communicate to that need. The upshot is that we have more than a handful of regular contributors, but almost all departments have contributed content and are engaged.
When we nail down the understanding around the circumstances this will be said is when we start to win the Corporate Communication Challenges that we all face as communicators.